4 different cetacean species today plus a large Mola mola

2019 05-05 SB Channel

Three excursions were run today, one at 9a, 12 noon and 3p. The sea surface was very calm all day. Winds were light and variable. The sky varied from a heavy high marine stratus layer in the morning, to partly sunny on the noon trip, to a light rain blowing in off the Santa Ynez Mountains at the start of the late afternoon run. The rain was so light that no one really got wet. Refreshing! Sightings for the day included 6 humpback whales, 1 gray whale, 1000 short-beaked common dolphins, 10 coastal bottlenose dolphins, and a medium-large Mola mola (ocean sunfish).

As I walked through the parking lot on my way to the boat early this morning, Pete, the black-crowned night heron was perched on the front hood of the car parked next to me. Was this to be a good omen? The morning trip got started with a long and leisurely look at a single humpback whale found about 4 miles south of the lighthouse. As has been the case all week, the ocean surface was everywhere festooned with those intriguing little jellies known as Velella. (The jellies don’t seem to bother the whales). Over an hour later another humpback whale gave us some fast looks as we were heading home.

Just outside Santa Barbara Harbor, we spotted a Chumash tomol, fully staffed and oars working hard as the beautiful replica of our local indigenous people’s canoe headed out to sea representing similar voyages that occurred over the past 13,000 years or so.

The noon trip intercepted a single, small gray whale heading up the coast towards Alaska. We followed it from the lighthouse up to Arroyo Burro. This was a very beautiful whale and it fluked-up on every deep dive. Wonderful! Continuing southwest, we ran through a massive oceanic hot spot full of all sorts of active sea birds. We were all surprised to NOT find any cetaceans in this “perfect” zone. Perhaps 30 min later we closely watched a medium-large ocean sunfish (Mola mola). The jelly-eating fish passed by all the tempting Velella. Perhaps its stomach was already full! Five miles south of Arroyo Burro we watched a full breathing cycle of a big humpback with all white tail flukes.

The late afternoon adventure we found 10 coastal bottlenose dolphins as we moved up the coast from the harbor area. Offshore we found an area with quite a few humpback whales and watched 3 of them closely. A megapod of at least 1000 very active short-beaked common dolphins located the Condor Express. I addition to their aerial acrobatics, many individuals rode our bow, side and stern waves.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store.

Bob Perry Condor Express, and CondorExpressPhotos.com

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